McDonald’s mulling embrace of Simplot’s bruise-reducing Innate GMO potato


What will McDonald’s do?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday cleared a genetically engineered potato with two innovations that help both consumers and producers: The Simplot Innate potato resists bruising, which makes it more appealing to consumers (even though bruising generally does not impact the quality of the starchy vegetable); and it’s been modified to produce less of the chemical acrylamide when fried. Acrylamide has been linked to cancer in rats although there is no clear evidence that it poses harm to humans.

The Innate offers a number of safety and ecological advantages over conventional potatoes:Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.31.52 PMThe Innate is, in theory, perfect for food giants that use a lot of potatoes, particularly fast food giants and chip companies, but history and the ongoing controversy over GMOs suggests that McDonald’s will move cautiously.

As the Genetic Literacy Project previously noted, the Innate is one of numerous GMO potatoes in development. Farmers could benefit from the results of a three-year trial on genetically modified potatoes resistant to blight released earlier this year. The results were published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B  and was part of an EU-wide investigation into the potential for biotechnology to protect crops, led by scientists at the John Innes Centre and the Sainsbury Laboratory. Researchers added a gene to Desiree potatoes, from a South American wild relative of potato, which triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms by enabling it to recognize the pathogen.

In 1998, Monsanto introduced NewLeaf potatoes, which were engineered to repel a pest called the Colorado potato beetle. But NGOs launched a demonization campaign, persuading McDonald’s and Frito-Lay to tell their suppliers, including Simplot, not to grow the NewLeaf potatoes. Monsanto subsequently withdrew from the potato business, and the first GM potato died. This time, Simplot, a long-established power in the potato business, is the prime mover and presumably would not have moved forward without positive signals from McDonald’s and others. We’ll see.

“The potato is one of a new wave of genetically modified crops that aim to provide benefits to consumers, not just to farmers as the widely grown biotech crops like herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn do,” notes The New York Times.

“The non-bruising aspect of the potato is similar to that of genetically engineered non-browning apples, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which are awaiting regulatory approval. These consumer focused innovations have anti-GMO campaigners on the defensive, as one of their central talking points is that GM has focused on commodity crops, like corn and soybeans.

Food and Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) have led the attack against Innate and Arctic Apple, alleging unknown possible health risks that no study or science oversight agency has found. Neither the new GMO potato nor the nonbrowng apple were modified using so-called “foreign genes”–genes from another species. Because all life share common ancestors, scientists put no stock into “foreign gene” scaremongering, but it’s a popular talking point for anti-GMO activists.

“We think this is a really premature approval of a technology that is not being adequately regulated,” said CFS’ Doug Gurian-Sherman, adding that his group might try to get a court to reverse the approval of the potato.

Arctic apple uses what’s called an apple-to-apple transformation,” turning down the expression of the genes that turn the apple brown in a process called gene silencing–a natural process that all plants (and animals too) use to control expression of their genes. Similarly, the Innate contains fragments of potato DNA that silences genes involved in the production of certain enzymes.

“We are trying to use genes from the potato plant back in the potato plant,” Haven Baker, who is in charge of the potato development at Simplot, told the TImes. “We believe there’s some more comfort in that.”

Both crops offer considerable sustainability advantages, reducing food waste, purportedly a goal of food and consumer based NGOs:Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 10.59.33 AM

Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, is a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center, Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, University of California-Davis. Follow @JonEntine on Twitter


    YHWH made everything within the 6 days of creation and called it good. Man being evil after the fall believes that he is greater than YHWH and takes what YHWH has created and corrupts His goodness with modifications. Man is in total rebellion against YHWH and this action against His Creation will soon come crashing down upon every sole that eats of their poison. Health Problems? Wonder no more. You are what you eat, just like swine. Boycott Mc Donalds and everyone else who bends their way.

    And the owner of Mc Donalds claims YHWH as her Father? I think not!!! Luke warmness is a killer among those claiming YHWH as their Father.

    Better get it right christians. Shalom

    • rick

      Levi: I will give you the benefit of doubt here that you are sincere. But don’t mistake my sincerity when I say that if I am worried about relative risks to my health, I know that religion has killed or inspired the killing, or perpetuated ignorance that has led to the death, of millions. Is YHWH really advising us and McDonalds to continue to expose ourselves to a suspected carcinogen by avoiding making or eating french fries made from the innate potato and what are your credentials to claim to know that YHWH prescribes this for us. If I am understanding you correctly, man should have never aspired to advance beyond the brutish existence of hunting and gathering, blissful in the ignorance of his creation.

    • You missed the most important part of the story Levi.

      When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden was a perfect paradise in which everything was provided. Once they were cast out, Adam and Eve then had to provide for themselves. And humankind has been providing for itself ever since through toil and technology.

      So, as you can see, you’ve got it backwards. Completely and totally backwards.

      • Good4U

        Mischa: God gave me a brain for a purpose, which is to use it to distinguish authentic risk vs. theoretical ones. The authentic ones, in terms of environmental destruction and threats to human health, come from diseases, starvation, war. Biotechnical manipulation of our food & fiber crops will continue to advance the state of human enlightenment, just as cross breeding & chemical mutagenesis have done in the past. Most of what we consume as humans today has never existed in nature. That includes the very apple that Eve & Adam ate.

        • Quite right!
          We eat in spite of nature, not because of it. And we have farmers to thank for that.

    • Cairenn Day

      And the Bible demands monocropping also. Did you know that? Leviticus 19:19

      It also forbids any hybridization

      Deuteronomy 22:9
      Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.

      And of course it calls for the parents to have their disobedient children stoned to death, allows the rape of women, if the rapist marries the woman he raped, and lots of other undesirable actions.

      We are discussing Science not religion.

      • Cosmos

        thumbs up..well said

    • First Officer

      Youza! I didn’t think the legal marijuana would hit so soon !

  • RobertWager

    The Aqua-bounty salmon also uses salmon genes in salmon.

    • Joe Olden

      Aqua-bounty uses a gene from salmon and also a promoter from ocean pout.

      • RobertWager

        True but a promoter does not produce its own protein, only genes do this. Therefore salmon proteins in salmon. (no pout proteins)

        • First Officer

          But pouting proteins are so cute !

  • Warren Lauzon

    The anti-GMO activists are a very loud and noisy group, but I wonder how many of them there are actually are – and how many of those ever buy anything from McDonalds anyway? When 80% of the population does not even have a clue what a GMO is, I wonder if their influence is being vastly overstated?

    • moon1234

      Nope. McDonalds rejected the first GMO potato because of consumer backlash before they were even introduced.

      McDonalds needs to be very careful as their competition will use the GMO angle to draw away customers. McDonalds has been suffering losses around the world due to a perception of their food being unhealthy. Adding GMOs to the mix will only allow their competition to rightly or wrongly demonize their food as franken food.

      I personally eat at places like Chipotle that have a dedication to sourcing more local ingredients that are either non-gmo or organic. Not surprisingly other chains are going the same way.

      Fries were the only thing we ever allowed our kids to eat at McDonalds as there was not much that we say risky in the potatoes. If they go GMO then there are plenty of other places that will NOT go GMO on their potato and they will get our fast food business (what little of it we eat.)

      • Warren Lauzon

        That potato had no innate advantages, this one does. How is the anti-GMO crowd going to handle this one – go around shouting WE LIKE CANCER?

        • hyperzombie

          go around shouting WE LIKE CANCER?

          But, but it would be “100% natural” cancer.

        • FoodDee

          There’s that lovely sustainability graphic too. I thought all those crunchies were into that sort of thing.

      • Good4U

        Moonie, you probably are not aware of what company owns the Chipotle brand & food chain. Additionally, you are not at all well educated on the benefits of the Innate potato. It’s definitely something that I WANT in my diet. Those who are ranting & whining are fostering waste (causing unnecessary environmental impacts) and the presence of acrylamide in potatoes that they themselves eat. Anti-GMO types are as dumb as a post, as the adage goes.

        • Jake

          Chipotle is not owned by mcdonalds. Common misconception.

    • science is your new religion

      Too bad not everyone can just believe everything they’re told by people they don’t know or have any reason to trust. good luck with that tho #scienceisyournewreligion

  • aed939

    If McDonalds goes for GM, it could be a decision that ultimately leads to the bankruptcy and end of McDonalds.

    • Joe Mackey

      Hahahaha! Not even a chance of that happening. In fact, if this allows them to save on the cost of their fries you can bet they’ll be around for a lot longer. Hell, if they approve it, I’m buying stock in them.

    • Good4U

      Not at all true. I WANT GM foods, and will let McDonald’s know that I want them to buy Innate potatoes for making their fries. My family & I WANT more GMOs in our diet, so we are making everyone aware of their benefits, and even more aware of the detriments to human health and nutrition for not bringing on GMOs sooner than they have already.

      • anuses

        this argument is beyond delusional. this is some mentally ill sh*t right here. “detriments to human health and nutrition”? the gmos offer none of these benefits, only productivity efficiency on an industrial monocrop scale. guess we know who’s supporting unfounded actions simply “because we can”. mindless idiocy.

        • Good4U

          Sorry, anuses (your mother named you right), GMOs have offered these benefits, and will continue to do so. You just don’t know enough about agriculture and the protection of the environment from unnecessary degradation to realize that the GMO technology which has been deployed so far has reduced dependence upon pesticides, increased crop productivity, decreased the use of fossil fuels, water, fertilizers, and improved human safety. Study up!

  • rkt9

    Looks as though they will save a lot of water. I personally don’t care what kind of potatoes they use, just wish they would slice them a little thicker. When I am at home I never eat fast food, but I am on the road a lot, often fast food is my only choice. I hope the consumers accept them.

  • Will Robinson

    When released into the wild it destroys the genetic heritage of human food plant breeding history, look at how ‘starlink’ corn has wiped out sweet corn varieties, in 1900 there were over 100 varieties, now we have 8 left struggling amidst the living genetic pollution to survive !!

    • FoodDee

      It’s either poorly done sarcasm or logorrhea, Any bets on either side?

    • Keith

      There is a difference with potatoes. All potatoes are produced clonally by planting pieces of potato. They are not produced from the seeds from the flowers like corn is. Also there are already many patented or protected varieties of potatoes on the market. It has nothing to do with these new Innate potatoes. Also, there is no such thing as terminator genes in potatoes.

  • Will Robinson

    Patenting life and food crops is the road to corporate fascism and human slavery – if you can not grow your own food to survive for free your life is dependent on your compliance and willingness to submit to slavery to remain alive – it is un-natural, and a crime against life that a human being will not be able to survive on the planet of its origin without consenting to corporate oppression and no free choice !

    • Good4U

      Will Robinson, you are definitely in danger…from what, we don’t know. But keep on listening to that robot. Eventually it will save your life. But then you will die anyway.

  • Teresa

    Hey boys and girls, drinking bleach everyday will dramatically reduce the bacteria in your stomach and it will look nice and clean. Want to buy some? Another benefit, you won’t have to use birth control anymore. We biotech folks have it figured out for you!

  • Francesca Luciano

    It is horrible this situation with the GMO food! It is alien food! It really sad that McDonalds and other big companies are using GMOs! Francesca

    • Good4U

      Francesca, I doubt that you read the article. Also, I don’t think you really understand very much about science or agriculture. How might you consider “GMO food” to be horrible? How might it be any different from any of the other techniques that humans have used for the past 10 thousand years (since the beginnings of agriculture) to produce our food supply? How might transgenics be any more “alien” than the techniques that breeders have used for many centuries to mix genes from one species to another, thus to produce more food from a limited supply of resources (land, water, fertilizer, energy), and with progressively fewer people who are actually engaged in agriculture? Are you wealthy, and do you live in an affluent culture where most consumers rely upon other people to grow, process, pack, and distribute their food supplies to their doorstep?
      I doubt that you have every really produced any food. I don’t mean some sort of hobby garden, I mean subsistence agriculture, where you have to grow all of your own food or else starve. I mean real gut-grinding agriculture, where you and you alone are responsible for the life & death of yourself & your children? I think not.
      You should reconsider your position on this subject of GMOs, because there is a large proportion of the world’s population who need more nutritious food in order to simply survive. People in lesser developed societies who are starving, diseased, and malnourished for lack of food have no regard for the sanctimonious, high-handed opinions of overfed, elitist, uninformed, or uncaring people in North America or Europe who would block the deployment of GMOs.